Ready For Greatness?

Jarvis Jones believes he's ready to become the linchpin of a high-pedigreed linebacking unit. That and more in Saturday's notebook.

LATROBE -- Jarvis Jones is the man on the spot in the Steelers' defense this season.

Knowing that, he spent much of the first two days here trying to keep quiet because "I just want to keep chopping wood," he said.

But his time to show is coming. On Monday the Steelers will put on pads for the first time and the rebuilt but highly pedigreed quartet of starting linebackers will be on display as a unit for the first time.

Can this group of three first-round picks and a second-rounder go on to rank with the other all-time great linebacking units in franchise history?

"Why not?" said Jones. "We can be great. It's just hard to talk about."

Jones knows the time for talk is over. Or at least it will be on Monday. Linebackers coach Kevin Butler was asked for whom he believes will prove himself in pads.

"I hope it's No. 50," Butler said of rookie mack inside backer Ryan Shazier.

"I know 57 will do it," he added of his favorite swing backup Terence Garvin.

"And I think Jarvis will show a lot," Butler concluded. "I'm expecting big things from him."

Steelers fans have been expecting big things from Jones since he was drafted in the first round last year. He did start 8 games, which is rare for any rookie in Dick LeBeau's defense. But Jones only had 1 sack as he was yanked in and out of the starting lineup because he didn't understand his assignments.

"Yeah, I know I didn't have a great season last year," Jones said. "Everybody in the world knows I didn't have a great season last year. But, man, that was last year. This is a whole new year. It's a whole different ball club."

It's a whole different YOUNG ball club. And Jones, as the blind-side pass-rusher, is the key on the defense. That's why he spent the summer working with his best friend, Kansas City Chiefs pass-rusher Justin Houston, as well as former Atlanta Falcons pass-rusher Jamaal Anderson, among others, on his technique, his hand placement and his footwork. He says he's ready. And he's convinced the unit is headed for greatness.

"Absolutely," Jones said. "I think we've got a great group of guys to do that. We've got a great coaching staff made up of guys who have played a long career in the league. If we put in the work and the time, why not?"

OL' NUMBER 99

As the youngsters rev up for their unveiling on Monday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reminded everyone at St. Vincent College, and beyond, about one of the older veterans who hasn't been re-signed: Brett Keisel.

"That's my boy," Roethlisberger said after wearing Keisel's No. 99 for the first couple of practice periods Saturday. "He's been one of my closest friends (and) has been in my wedding. It was an honor to wear it. I miss him."

Keisel, of course, is home wondering if the Steelers will call him after training camp, or after they've thoroughly inspected a young group of defensive ends that includes backups Stephon Tuitt, Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams, among others.

Keisel, who'll turn 36 in September, still wants to play and showed his appreciation for Roethlisberger's tribute by posting a picture of Roethlisberger on Facebook under the comment, "I see ya 7 ... I mean 99."

PRACTICE NOTES

* New free safety Mike Mitchell was felled by a groin injury just before the start of camp and the Steelers are hoping he only misses a week of work. In his place at Saturday's practice was veteran Will Allen. Robert Golden was Allen's backup, while Shamarko Thomas was the backup to strong safety Troy Polamalu.

* Backup center Cody Wallace replaced Ramon Foster at left guard, and the third center, David Snow, went down "with a foot or ankle injury of some kind. He's being evaluated," said Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin. Foster is expected to return Monday as he mourns the passing of his mother.

* Roethlisberger showed off a fresh and live arm Saturday as he threw darts all over the field. His most impressive receiver was Antonio Brown. Who else?

* Brown was the primary punt returner in the first special-teams session, but the player the coaching staff would like to see win the job, rookie Dri Archer, was the lone return man in the second session. Archer caught every kick, with a couple in thick traffic.

* Archer had two highlight-reel runs in which he flashed his sub-4.2 speed down the sideline. On the second, Archer swept right but reversed field and eventually turned it up the left sideline and into the clear for a touchdown.

* Garvin replaced recently released Kion Wilson as the third-team buck linebacker. He and rookie Jordan Zumwalt rotated there and at right outside linebacker. They are the two "swing" backer candidates.


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